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Tech Titans Bullish on Bitcoin

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If you reflect on the Trojan War, you might recognize some modern-day parallels. In the movie Troy, which is based on the Trojan war, Achilles, played by Brad Pitt, leads his rogue fighters and the Greek Army to take control of the city of Troy, which is guarded by great walls and a Hector-led Trojan army.

It’s a drawn-out battle filled with duels and sneak attacks from both sides, the famous and final one being the Greek army’s ability to infiltrate their way into the city walls through the gift of a Trojan horse. Perhaps Troy was a bit of foreshadowing on the global monetary system.

Bitcoin in a sense has been a surprise attack on fiat money. Nobody could have predicted a decentralized digital currency that would challenge the merits of a centralized monetary system that’s been in place for centuries. Now that it’s here, bitcoin and its digital currency soldiers aren’t going anywhere. And if you ask a couple of tech titans, bitcoin should subvert fiat currencies.

Tech Titans

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak and Twitter CEO/Square Founder Jack Dorsey may not be leading armies of the usual kind. But they are tech giants whose influence has gone beyond corporate walls and changed the landscape of modern day technology as we know it. Both are bitcoin bulls and agree that bitcoin deserves the title as the single global currency.

Dorsey is a bit more aggressive about his prediction, having said that bitcoin will win the title as the sole global currency over the course of the next decade or sooner.

When asked about it, Wozniak softened the forecast a bit, saying: “I buy into what Jack Dorsey says. Not that I necessarily believe it’s going to happen. I just, I want it to be that way,” Wozniak said.

Ebbs and Flows

The Apple co-founder reportedly first bought into bitcoin at the $700 level. And even though he says it wasn’t an investment and more of an experiment, he still believes that the bitcoin price will continue to rise even if there are ebbs and flows along the way, similar to the internet during its rise.

Currently, the bitcoin price is experiencing one of those ebbs, having failed to break through the $7,600 level in a weekend rally and falling to about $7,443. While market bulls like Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee aren’t relenting on their forecasts for bitcoin $25,000, the trading volume since year-end 2017 at bitcoin’s pinnacle has dropped and some analysts predict it could get worse before it gets better.

Wozniak’s Portfolio

Wozniak told CNBC he likes bitcoin for its decentralized features that make it more natural, such as the public ledger technology underpinning the coin and the rewards system that keeps it going.

Wozniak’s cryptocurrency portfolio is comprised of one bitcoin and two ether, the former of which he owns for pure experimentation purposes. He likens Ethereum to a platform that tends to grow because “there tend to be lots of people working on applications.” Sounds like another platform that Wozniak knows a little something about.

Meanwhile, whether or not bitcoin overtakes fiat currencies, the digital currency that boasts a market cap of $127 billion is sure to be remembered, which if we could ask Achilles of the Trojan war is what it’s all about anyway.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 41 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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Cryptocurrencies

Hard Forks and Crypto Prices

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Right now, there is no measure of “intrinsic value” in the crypto world. And even if there is a measure for a specific protocol, investor sentiment tends to overshadow it by a significant amount. The lack of certainty in this space creates a high level of volatility that naturally plays out in the prices and makes it difficult to determine a fair value for cryptocurrencies. By understanding hard forks better, you can properly make a decision ahead of time in order to protect your investment.

Past Forks

First thing’s first: let’s get the definitions straight. A hard fork is a change to a cryptocurrency’s protocol that creates two different versions of a cryptocurrency. Soft forks, on the other hand, stick to just one cryptocurrency (and one blockchain). Segwit was an example of a soft fork, and Bitcoin Cash is the most well-known example of a hard fork.

Hard forks can signify upgrades to security or new functionality, or they can be designed with the express purpose of reversing past transactions. However, the most well-known function of a hard fork is to split a cryptocurrency into two. A new version and old version result, and it turns into somewhat of a battle between the two for dominance of the aggregate community.

We have seen this play out most notably with Bitcoin Cash, but Bitcoin Gold and Setwit2x were also cases where this occurred.

Likely Outcomes

There are three outcomes that can occur when a hard fork is executed. Either one blockchain becomes dominant and the other one fades into obscurity, both achieve similar adoption and are able to act independently of each other, or both remain successful with one outshining the other. The third case is the most common, as network effects often lead to compounding success within a single domain.

With Bitcoin Cash, we have seen a very active community attempt to push the cryptocurrency to dominance over Bitcoin, but BTC is so entrenched that this is nearly impossible. When a cryptocurrency forks into two separate coins, there end up being two ledgers and two sets of code, all with the same original blockchain.

Secondary Concerns

Even if you’re not worried about the future of the space, hard forks have created some question of how the overall ecosystem can adapt to them. The complications involved in managing a hard fork and distributing the private keys to the newly minted cryptocurrency can be significant. Generally, issues arise from the fact there is no “standard” method of handling an event such as this, and it becomes a question of each exchange’s policy. As we have seen with lawsuits such as OKCoin’s, sometimes the lack of clear guidelines and announcements can create confusion in the space.

An additional reason why investor confidence comes into play are the intense debates that ensue during a hard fork. Nodes are forced to choose between upgrading to the new version of the protocol software or maintaining the old one. This sort of divisive choice can be seen as “democratic”, but it also foments instability in the way that unrest within a country would hurt its currency.

From an investing perspective, the value of your cryptocurrency pre-hard fork should be the same as the aggregate value of your cryptocurrencies post-hard fork. This would be the case in an ideal world, however things seldom work out this perfectly. What it does do is create a betting-type market where you can sell the cryptocurrency you think is most likely to disappear, and still maintain your investment in the other cryptocurrency.

The key point here is that hard forks create additional volatility in an already volatile market. Whenever a hard fork is on the horizon, it helps to have a plan and know whether you are going to “make a bet” on one currency or the other, or sell before the hard fork occurs.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Opinion

The Effect of Derivatives on Crypto

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Although they have had a slow rollout, derivatives for cryptocurrencies have been gaining support over the last year. Many worried that with Bitcoin ETFs stalling in their adoption, this could extend to derivatives. However, the demand for these products has continued to grow for various reasons we are going to examine in this article.

Derivatives are financial instruments that allow you to speculate on the price movement of a good without having to actually take ownership for that good. Some companies use them in order to hedge their positions and smooth out their income, but at the same time, derivatives were a large part of the volatility that led to the last major recession in 2008.

Current Status of the Market

Right now there are not many big players in the game, but more firms developing their own solutions and releasing them, you can expect to see the competition intensify in the next few months. The landscape includes everyone from privately funded investment funds to public exchanges. A big part of the market is about institutions gaining access to cryptocurrencies in a way that is less risky for their client base.

There are companies like LedgerX, which has experienced continually increasing demand for their cryptocurrency derivative products as 2018 has progressed. But where things get interesting is when existing financial players delve into cryptocurrencies.

The Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE) started offering Bitcoin futures on December 10th, 2017, and this marked a change in the market. When well-regulated derivatives exchanges begin to acknowledge the legitimacy of cryptocurrency (or at least the high demand from their customers) it is a signal of a larger shifting of the tides in the works.

The plot thickens as recent rumours about Goldman Sachs hiring a cryptocurrency trader seem to be all-but-confirmed. Their goal is to figure out their customers’ direct needs and although they do currently clear Bitcoin futures, they are very cautious about further expansion into the cryptocurrency space.

In terms of sentiment, all of these actions together signal a shift in the way the legacy financial industry views cryptocurrency. A common retort used to be that Bitcoin was not a currency, but now that demand has continued to increase, banks are much more willing to cooperate and cater to their customers.

2nd Order Effects

It may be nice to have cryptocurrency derivative products available, especially for the firms who are making tons of money selling them, but it is also important to think about how this will affect the cryptocurrency market as a whole. Derivatives distribute the risk in a way that allows speculators to make bets without actually owning the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has gained traction, but it is unclear how this sort of institutionalized speculation would affect it in these early stages.

The general argument for derivatives is that they allow for more liquidity and trading volumes of non-blue chip coins. Companies issuing derivatives for these alt-coins would increase the general awareness of these coins and their quality, which could lead to heightened demand for the coins.

Additionally, with every company, exchange, or investor who trades anything cryptocurrency related, regulators feel further pressure to regulate them more fairly. The current “no man’s land” crypto is in can’t last forever, and if the adoption of derivatives helps, then this is a clear benefit.

On the flip side, derivatives allow for bets against Bitcoin as well as the ability to invest in cryptocurrencies without owning them. This could lead to decreased demand, which may affect it negatively, since it hasn’t reached equilibrium like other currencies have.

Cryptocurrencies are an inherently risky asset, and with the introduction of derivatives, there are a lot of different things that could happen in this space. Increased volatility may ensue, but with it may come increased adoption.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Ethereum

Progress Scaling Ethereum

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In the blockchain technology world, scaling debates are pretty much the centre of everything. It is one thing to create a solution that works on a micro-level, but no one knows how things will look once it is expanded to the global level.

Many people spend time talking about the scaling of Bitcoin, but the efforts to scale Ethereum have been far more interesting. Between sharding and the switch to proof-of-stake, there have been countless solutions provided, and Vitalik Buterin seems to think his hard work is about to pay off.

Ethereum’s End Goal

Everyone knows this, but it is important to restate it: Ethereum wants to become a world computer of sorts. The end goal is to build a giant, decentralized network of computers that are both able to record transactions (using blockchain technology) and produce smart contracts (using artificial intelligence technology).

The combination of these features allows for the development of decentralized applications (DApps), which piggyback off the underlying technology and create a market for Ethereum’s token, Ether.

ERC-20 Standard

Tokens classified as ERC-20 are designed and used on the Ethereum platform, and follow a list of standards that allow for a simpler method of sharing, exchanging, and transferring tokens between users.

DApps use the ERC-20 token standard to represent shares in companies, proof of ownership, or coins of a currency. These tokens have essentially become the building block of any DApps that developers seek to develop on Ethereum. It is important not to confuse ERC-20 tokens with Ether, as Ether is what is used to compensate a user for their computing power, whereas the ERC-20 tokens are endemic to the actual DApps.

This high level of simplicity comes with a cost though. Some vulnerabilities have been found that allow attackers to gain access to a large quantity of tokens. Additionally, tokens may be destroyed by accident with the use of some smart contracts. A new standard, ERC-223, is now being developed to solve this problem.

The Best Alternative

Companies like Golem, which saw the release of its token delayed 3 years, are finding there to be some difficulties integrating with Ethereum. Most of these issues stem from current scaling problems, as was evidenced when Cryptokitties (a popular game building on top of Ethereum) created massive congestion within the system.

The technological barriers become more important once you process the fact you are dealing with other people’s money. There can be no room for error, and this is where much of the delays came from. For example, the verification of basic cryptocurrency transactions is fairly simple, but once you are verifying the results of a smart contract, the system begins to fail.

That being said, Golem’s CEO, Julian Zawistowski, still believes that Ethereum is “by far the most promising blockchain platform”. There aren’t many competitors in the space, and it seems like all the current problems will be solved, or on their way to being solved, soon.

Why Scaling Matters

The critical difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin is the fact that Ethereum acts like a company, whereas Bitcoin is a scarce commodity that is generally unmanaged and has no new offerings. As a result, this puts pressure on the Ethereum foundation to continually improve the capabilities of their platform so it is able to handle the required amount of transactions and tokens.

Not every company wants to build a whole new framework for the operation of their own protocol. The same way that WordPress has made it unnecessary for every company to learn how to code their own website on a deep level, Ethereum hopes to do this for all blockchain companies. Its ability to enable the development of DApps makes it a unique player in the space, and the fact that scaling issues are beginning to be solved (as is evidenced by ERC-20 problems being solved and projects like Golem finally being released) is a great sign for its future.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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